Han Yongun

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Han Yongun (Manhae, 1879–1944) was a monk, poet, and critic of the Japanese colonial rule of Korea. He was born in present-day Hongsŏng in South Ch'ungch'ŏng province in Korea. He took full ordination in 1905 and devoted his life to Buddhist reformation, exploring ways of Buddhist engagement in society. By aiming to make Buddhism socially engaged, and thus accessible to the public, his Chosŏ Pulgyo yusin non (Treatise on the Reformation of Korean Buddhism) provided a rationale and blueprint for the modern reform of the Korean order. Areas of reform included: modernization of the monastery education, development of propagation methods, simplicity of rituals, and centralization of the saṄgha. Han offered leadership to the Buddhist youth movement that sought further Buddhist reforms and the saṅgha's independence from the Japanese regime.

In 1914 Han published the Pulgyo taejŏn (Great Canon of Buddhism), a digest of Buddhist scriptures in Korean vernacular intended to provide the gist of Buddhist teachings to laypeople and to help guide their religious lives. As a certified Sŏn master, Han emphasized mind cultivation through Sŏn (Chinese, Chan) meditation, considered the fountainhead of all other activities in life.

In addition, Han's social and literary activities occupied a great part of his life. He was one of the thirty-three leaders of the March First Movement, which proclaimed Korean independence from imperial Japan in 1919, and he assisted in drafting the Korean "Declaration of Independence" for the movement. In 1926 he published a collection of his poems, Nim ŭi chimmuk (The Silence of the Beloved). This collection earned him a name as the first modern nationalist poet. He also left 163 Chinese poems, thirty-two sijo poetic compositions, and five novels. In 1944 Manhae died of palsy at the age of sixty-five.

See also:Chan School; Engaged Buddhism; Korea; Nationalism and Buddhism


An Pyong-jik. "Han Yongun's Liberalism: An Analysis of the Reformation of Korean Buddhism." Korea Journal 19, no. 12 (1979): 13–18.

Han Yongun chŏnjip (The Collected Works of Han Yongun). Seoul: Sin'gu Munhwasa, 1973.

Lee, Peter, trans. The Silence of Love: Twentieth-Century Korean Poetry. Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1980.

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